Camden County began litigation with the nation’s three largest opioid manufacturers in 2018, with the hope of receiving a monetary settlement. After four years, that settlement has finally been reached: The pharmaceutical giants will fork over $641 million to New Jersey residents, with $32 million of that going to Camden County.
According to the board of commissioners, over the course of the next 20 years, money will reach 200 municipalities and more than 10,000 residents in the county. The funds will be earmarked for treatment, education and harm reduction, and the commissioners will be the first in the state to appoint a body for fund oversight, per the state attorney general.
“This settlement means a future stream of income for Camden County that allows us to plan for the future in combating this opioid crisis,” said Commissioner Director Lou Cappelli. “We can begin working with and expanding our health-care infrastructure.”
The commissioners will also work directly with the Camden County Addiction Awareness Task Force to properly allocate resources in county areas most in need. The two bodies will release a finalized plan in the near future; the hope is to distribute the first rounds as soon as possible.
“All of the funds we received will be allocated to education, prevention and treatment,” Cappelli noted. “We have several programs in place to educate the public with fentanyl awareness. With these guaranteed funds, we will now be able to provide [even more] opportunity for treatment than what we currently have ..
“In any plan, we will work hand in hand with law enforcement.”
Camden County Public Affairs Director Dan Keashen admitted that opioid addiction is still too prevalent in the county, but he remains encouraged with progress over the last decade.
“This is still a dire situation when it comes to opioids, but I think we have really made a lot of progress over the years,” he said. “A lot of that is thanks to the task force and the county. We strand today at a place where opioid overdoses have reached what we really hope to be – the apex.”
Keashen and Cappelli echoed one another on progress the county has made to combat addiction, and they are confident the opioid settlement will be built on what is already a strong foundation.“I think this can be a real game changer for us …” Keashen said. “It’s going to help us get to the next level.”